Formula One teams unhappy with timing of FIA's decision to act on 'porpoising'

The car of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain leaves a trail of sparks as it bounces along the course at the Portugal Grand Prix in early May. (Manu Fernandez/AP)

MONTREAL — Most Formula One teams were in the air en route to Montreal when their sport's governing body announced it was stepping in to counter the troublesome bouncing of cars.

Teams arrived Thursday for the Canadian Grand Prix to discover the FIA had issued a technical directive to reduce bouncing — also known as "porpoising'' — that's been the bane of numerous drivers this season, most notably seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

Teams and drivers are split on the regulations. But most were in agreement Saturday that the timing of FIA's announcement was terrible.

"The timing was absolutely not good, because most of the people were travelling and just to send out technical directive few days before the race is for sure not the best,'' said Franz Tost, Alpha Tauri's team principal.

The F1 moved this season to "ground effect'' — where the car's floor is closer to the asphalt and generates aerodynamic grip — to tighten the competition between the teams.

But it's caused cars to bottom out, and several drivers including Hamilton have complained of extreme back pain.

The FIA is concerned the bouncing reduces drivers' ability to concentrate at high speed.

Tost said, however, that driving has always been tough on the body.

"I remember back when … there was a driver coming to me on Sunday evening who said 'I have to go to the dentist because I lose my fillings,' because the cars are so hard to drive,'' he said. "It's nothing new. The drivers must do more training for the neck muscles and for the gluteus maximus. This helps for sure.

"(And) this is a Formula One car. This is not a Rolls-Royce, drivers should be aware about this,'' added the 66-year-old Austrian. "If the cars are too stiff, or it's too difficult for them, maybe they should stay at home in the living room, sit in a chair, and then they can do the races in TV or wherever.''

The FIA told teams they could use a second stay to strengthen the floors of cars this weekend, which Mercedes reportedly did with George Russell's car in Friday's practice.

But Alpine's team principal Otmar Szafnauer argued that most teams didn't bring a second stay because the directive was issued while they were already en route.

"That isn't fair for the rest of us that couldn't bring a stay,'' Szafnauer said at a Saturday news conference before afternoon qualifying. "So, we've got to be careful that we don't change the playing field mid-season.

"If teams have brought those stays, I would imagine they could be perhaps looked at after (the race) and then protested … unfortunately, if you do have an extra stay, you can run the car lower, lower and stiffer, and gain some advantage.''

McLaren's team principal Zak Brown agreed the directive came "a bit late in the day to be able to respond at the weekend … except teams that have maybe have a crystal ball,'' he said. reported that Mercedes chose to remove the second stay amid the questions about a potential protest.

Because of the short notice, the FIA is expected to enforce their technical directive at the British Grand Prix on July 3.

Team leaders said they were happy to be back in Montreal, which is hosting Formula One for the first time in three years because of COVID-19 cancellations the last two.

"Love the Montreal race, always have,'' Brown said. "It's probably one of my favourites on the calendar, always produces great racing. We've won here in the in the past. And yeah, it's great to be back.

"It's a sellout which doesn't surprise me.''

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